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Elements of Short Stories


I. Plot- sequence of events or incidents that make up a story.

    1. Exposition- designed to arouse reader’s interest; background is provided.

B. Conflict - struggle between opposing forces (protagonist vs


    1. Person vs. Person - external struggle between two or
    2. more individuals.

    3. Person vs. themselves- internal struggle concerning emotion and decision.
    4. Person vs. nature - external struggle between person and an element of nature or the environment.

C. Rising Action -complication or development of the conflict.

C. Climax - turning point of the story; point of most intense interest.

D. Falling action –(denouement) events that lead to resolution.

E. Resolution - outcome of the conflict.

II. Character- is generally the central or focal element in a story.

    1. Four types of characterization- techniques the writer uses to develop character.

1. Physical description.

2. Speech and actions of the character.

3. Direct comment from the narrator.

4. Speech and actions of other characters.

B. Four types of characters-

    1. Round: complex or presented in detail.
    2. Dynamic: developing and learning in the course of the story.
    3. Flat: characterized by one or two traits.
    4. Static: unchanged from the story’s beginning to end.

III. Themes of literature/ Analyzing characters-

A. Motivation - cause of/ reason for actions.

B. Behavior - actions of the character.

C. Consequences - results of actions.

D. Responsibility - moral, legal, or mental accountability.

E. Expectations – what the reader expects.


 IV. Mood-

    1. Setting –the time and place in which the story is taking place, including factors such as weather and social customs.
    2. Atmosphere- the mood or feeling which pervades a story.


V. Point of view-

    1. Omniscient- the author tells the story using the third person. Author knows all of what is done, said, felt, and thought by the characters.

    3. Limited omniscient- Author tells the story from the third person but limits observations of thoughts and feelings to one character, the author presents the story from this character’s eyes.

    5. First person- one character tells the story in the first person. The reader sees and knows only as much as the narrator.

    7. Objective- the author is like a movie camera that moves around freely recording events. However, the author offers no comments on the characters or their actions. Readers are not told the thoughts or feelings of the characters.
    8. VI. Figurative language-

      1. Simile - comparison using like or as.
      2. Metaphor - comparison using is or form of is
      1. Implied metaphor
      2. Extended metaphor
    1. Personification – attributing humanlike qualities to inanimate things.





Short Story Unit Plan

By: Yasmien Elmaleh

Subject: English
Grade Level: 11-12
Unit: Short Story

Theme: Fear

Short Story Unit Contents:


Short Story Unit Overview


It is important that students are exposed to many different aspects of writing. The short story is a very manageable segment of writing; therefore the quick progression that is possible with short story should keep the students interested. As well, this unit gives the students a chance to cultivate writing skills in a creative way. This unit also enhances students' analytical skills by identifying the various elements contained within the short story.

Learning Objectives:





Mark Twain, Ghost Story;

Stephen King, The Reaper's Image;

Shirley Jackson, The Lottery;

Richard Connell, The Most Dangerous Game

Edgar Allan Poe, The Telltale Heart;

Fever Dream, Ray Bradbury.


Movie: The Telltale Heart


Short Story Unit





1-2 classes

Short Story Elements; includes brainstorm, handout, quiz.

Mark Twain's

Ghost Story

1 class

Elements; includes group work, re-working a paragraph of the story.

Stephen King’s The Reaper's Image,

1 class

Lesson includes biographical information, writing style, and application of elements to contemporary story. Assign culminating activity (see below).

Shirley Jackson's

The Lottery

1 class

Plot & theme; includes comparison to current events.

Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game

1-2 classes

Setting and Character.

Edgar Allan Poe’s

The Telltale Heart



Critical analysis of movie.

Philip Jose Farmer’s King of Beasts

1 class

Debate and practice of critical thinking skills.

Ray Bradbury’s

Fever Dream


Prediction, students will write anticipated conclusion.


1 class

Compares styles of stories that were emphasized. Work on culminating activity.



Lesson 1- Elements of the Short Story


This lesson is the first of several which will introduce and explore the short story. The purpose of this lesson will be to introduce the short story to students, by exploring what a short story is, and what the elements are that makes it a distinct genre.

Learning Objectives:


Activities and Procedures:

    1. Ask the class to begin by giving some examples of what they believe to be short stories, ask them to back up their choice with what makes it a short story.
    2. As a class brainstorm characteristics that define a short story, i.e. length (words), number of characters, time span, well-defined plot, etc. From this ask the class to then come up with a working definition of the short story, the short story is a piece of prose fiction, usually under 10,000, which can be read in one sitting (handout given out-included).
    3. Next ask the students to further examine the uniqueness of the short story by listening to the children's story "The Three Little Pigs". Read aloud to class, and then ask them to point out any techniques or approaches that they see in this story, i.e. the title, introduction, characters, setting, plot, rising action, crisis, climax, conclusion.
      Introduce any of the above that are mentioned and include the rest as the elements of the short story.
    4. As a class read and discuss the elements of the short story, pay close attention to applying the elements to "The Three Little Pigs" story.
    5. Announce that there will be a quiz on the elements in five minutes, ask them to quickly look over their handout. The quiz will be very straight forward, it will be a matching quiz, students will be given two columns, one containing definitions, the other answers, they will simple have to match them, and then give an example of where this are found in "The Three Little Pigs".



Watch a popular sitcom of choice and apply short story elements, as applicable, from handout. Include in Journal.

Lesson 2- A Ghost Story



This lesson is to familiarize students with the central and defining elements of the short story, through application.

Learning Objectives:



    1. As a class we will read aloud Mark Twain's "A Ghost Story". Students may either volunteer to read parts, or I will read the story to the class. (Create a mood, dim the lights, pull the curtains, perhaps play some dreary music in the background.)
    2. Following reading the story the class will then discuss "A Ghost Story". Was it scary, suspenseful, and exciting? Who was the narrator? Where did the events take place? Etc.
    3. Next I will refer to the handout of the elements of a short story. The class will then break into groups, in which they will use the handout to find the elements of "A Ghost Story".
    4. Each group will be assigned a specific element of the short story from the short story terminology sheet. Using examples from "A Ghost Story" each group must present (teach) their element to the rest of the class.



Students will be asked to right one additional paragraph that might be added to "A Ghost Story", either in the beginning, middle, or end. The paragraph must alter one of the elements of the story in some way. This will be added in their journals.








Lesson 3- Modern Fear and Suspense



This lesson will be used to get students interested in the contemporary short story. By using a famous author, it is hoped that the students' interest will be peaked sufficiently. I am unlikely to have much resistance to the use of one of King's stories because of the popularity of his novels, short stories, and movies. Most students should already be familiar with King through at least one medium.

The main thrust of this lesson is to introduce the form in a way that the student can relate to. From there the student will be able to form opinions on what makes for a successful short story in the genre of fear and suspense. The students will then be asked to relate their findings back to classic works of fear and suspense. By the end of the unit, the student should have an understanding of the format used in short stories, as well as techniques and conventions of those are the genre of fear and suspense.

Learning Objectives:


  1. Introduction to King's background should contain connections to his style of writing.
    -- Born 1947 in Portland, Maine.
    -- Father left when he was young, leaving behind a plethora of science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels.
    -- Lived on the edge of poverty until he 'made it' as an author.
    -- Inspirations: John D. MacDonald, Ed McBain, Shirley Jackson, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ken Kesey, Margaret Mitchell, Andre North, Jack London, Agatha Christie, and Thomas Hardy.
  2. Read the story "The Reaper's Image" aloud with the students. Either I read it or have the students take turns reading paragraphs. This will allow me to gage the students' interest in the story.
  3. Lead a critical analysis of the structure and main components of the story. This should tie back to the introduction lesson on the short story and its form. Point of view, introduction, inciting incident, rising action, crisis, climax, and conclusion should all be clearly identified.
  4. Break the class up into groups of 5-6. Have each group tackle one of the following questions:
    -- Who is the reaper in this story? Where is he seen?
    -- What kind of place is the Samuel Claggert Memorial Private Museum?
    -- Describe the characteristics of Mr. Carlin and Johnson Spangler. What kind of person is each one?
    -- What does the author tell us about Delver Mirrors?
    -- What is the significance of the statue of Adonis? (May require a bit of background given out to the group).
    -- Do you like the ending? Give your reasons. Continue the story with an additional episode.
  5. Answers and reactions should be written in the journal, although they are groups I am looking for personal responses as well.



Read Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery"


Lesson 4 - Shirley Jackson's The Lottery


Students will read "The Lottery" and respond to the themes of the story through small group discussion, and personal questions.

Learning Objectives:


  1. As a class read Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery".
  2. At the end of the story ask students to write down their immediate reaction to the story in their journals and after a few minutes ask for their opinions.
  3. Ask the class these important questions: Why are the townspeople holding the lottery? Why don't they stop? From here, you can talk a little about the sacrifice rituals of other cultures. Is this writing style a type of horror? What type of atmosphere does Jackson create at first, and how does that change?
  4. Have the students supply the definition of a theme or image pattern in stories and novels.
  5. From their thoughts and definition, ask the students if there are some themes that appear in the story. Some typical ones are evil disguised as good, prejudice and hypocrisy, minds slipping the bonds of reality.
  6. In small groups ask students to look at the story again and discuss how the story provides a commentary on these situations:
    -- How does "The Lottery" prevent the breakdown of society in this community?
    -- Respond to the roles of the men and women, how the children act, and what the social and business goals are for each facet of this society.
    -- Sacrifice rituals operate on the principle of "scapegoating". After defining the term, describe how the process of "The Lottery" uses the scapegoat and tell what end is desired. Are there any examples in our current society of using scapegoats?
    -- "The Lottery" has been used to describe the emotions of people in medicine misdiagnosis cases. Draw the parallels between elements in each situation and describe how this can be true.
  7. Have the class report their findings and report back to the class. Encourage discussion and full explanations of each report.
  8. Using the knowledge of plot and short story elements, write a page long response as to how Jackson creates a sense of horror from the elements of what should be an innocent story about small town America. Comment on the use of withheld knowledge, the irony that can be seen in the names of the characters, and any of the other elements discussed in class.


Read "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell for next class.

Lesson 5- The Most Dangerous Game



This lesson will focus on setting and how the setting can influence the psyche of a character.

Learning Objectives:


Activities/ Procedures:

    1. Ask what made The Most Dangerous Game frightening, or was it at all?
    2. Define setting; talk about it in relation to The Most Dangerous Game. Note that setting can pertain to physical surroundings as well as state of mind (psychological setting). Where is the story set (geographically)? What kind of island is it? What are the buildings like? What is the difference between this island and one like, say, Bermuda? Would the setting be scary if General Zaroff didn't live on the island? If the island were inhabited, would the story be as scary?
    3. Discuss the state of mind of Rainsford before he lands on the island versus that after he meets the General. What is different? (Especially about how he perceives animal feelings.)
    4. Talk about how Connell inspires fear without obvious bloodshed/grotesqueness. Hopefully, they will come up with some of the following: isolation, setting, power/powerlessness, conflict, suspense, and control/lack of control.
    5. Explain homework and allow students time to brainstorm ideas and thoughts in their journals.



If you were going to direct the movie The Most Dangerous Game, how would you do it? You are going to pitch your idea to a big-shot Hollywood producer who will decide if they will fund your movie. If they agree to make the movie, you will have an unlimited budget. Pay particular attention to setting. How would you make it as frightening as possible? Who would you cast in the roles? Where would you shoot it? How would you shoot it? Would you have it narrated or would you just have it acted out? Pitch your idea to me and write it in your journal.

Lesson 6-The Telltale Heart



This lesson’s focal point will be the movie based on the short story.


Learning Objectives:



  1. Read Edgar Allan Poe’s The Telltale Heart as a class. Either student volunteers or myself will read it after the class has been given the opportunity to read it silently to themselves.
  2. We will briefly discuss the story, concentrating on main elements that should be portrayed in the movie (dark /luminous, loud thumping heart, etc.)
  3. Students can write these expectations in their journals to see if they are met.
  4. We will use the remainder of the class to watch the movie.
  5. Next class, after completion of the movie, students will be required to write a Siskel and Ebert style critique outlining why or why not the movie was an effective portrayal of the story. Critiques should be brainstormed in journals.
  6. The students must relate, in detail, the movie to the story. For example if discussing the effect of setting, both settings with comparison and contrasts must be clearly described.



Complete critique if not finished in class.









Lesson 7 - King of Beasts



This lesson will help the students practice critical thought and their argument strategies.


Learning Objectives:


Activities/ Procedures:

  1. I will read the short story to the class. After a brief discussion of main points and attitudes/ reactions to the story I will split the class into two groups.
  2. One group argues for the creation of the human race and one argues against.
  3. Each group will be assigned a spokesperson and at least one transcriber.
  4. The transcriber will write out legibly at least 10 main points, with arguments, for their cause.
  5. After students have had the chance to complete their arguments a debate will take place. One group says a point, and then the other group counters it.
  6. Students will then vote, as a whole, which group made the stronger arguments.
  7. In their journals, students will be given an opportunity to relay their personal thoughts or feelings that may not have been heard.















Lesson 8 – Fever Dream



This lesson will give students an opportunity to predict the ending of a suspenseful story. They will sharpen their recognizing foreshadowing skills by using evidence from the text to predict coming actions.


Learning Objectives:



    1. Read Fever Dream to the class but stop at line "Now the warmth was stealing up his neck, into his cheeks, like a hot wine. His lips burned, his eyelids, like leaves, caught fire. His nostrils breathed out blue flame, faintly, faintly."
  1. Ask the students to write in their journals predictions of how the story might end.
  2. After an appropriate length of time, ask the students who are confidant their predictions are true, or even better than the original, to read them out.
  3. Continue reading the story then ask the students which ending they preferred, the original or the one of the ones suggested.
  4. Ask students to re-write the story changing one of the characters significantly, this is to be completed in their journals.




Lesson 9 - Conclusion


This is the final lesson of the unit and this time should be used to bring a sense of closure to the previous stories and concepts that have been introduced - the parts of the short story and the use of suspense/horror in writing.

Learning Objectives:

create an atmosphere for the writing.

featured in previous lessons.

their cumulative activity.


1. Take a moment to review the titles and plots of the stories previously discussed in class by placing the information on a chart or on the board. The key concepts might also be placed there in parenthesis (i.e. narrative voice, suspense, parts of the story, etc.)
2. Ask the students from a crafting viewpoint, which story do they feel drew best on the elements of suspense, horror, form/structure, etc., and why. Write responses in journal.
3. Alternately, ask if there were any of the aspects that they did not see well demonstrated in each of the various stories:
-- Did an element of horror appear in the opening "Three Little Pigs" story?
-- What made the style of Mark Twain different from that of Stephen King? How did a psychological element come into play in the Jackson, or the Connell? Which worked better, in your opinion?
-- How is the structure of the story manipulated so that suspense is capitalized?
4. Use class time to work on the culminating activity. Students should be encouraged to use their peers as editors and critiques for the design of their "sequel" to match style, monitor pacing, and form final editing ideas. If desired, a small part of the mark could be given for the editorial participation.





Culminating Activity:


This is the culminating activity of the unit. It is linked to lesson three, 'Modern Fear and Suspense - Stephen King's "The Reaper's Image". The activity requires the students to come up with a short story detailing the events that led to one of the follow incidents with the DeIver mirror: 1) during the school tour, when Sandra Bates brother saw the reaper's image; 2) during the party that the English Duchess was attending in 1709; or, 3) during the evening in 1746, when the Pennsylvania rug merchant first acquired the mirror.

Learning Outcomes:



The students' will each come up with an original piece of work based on the short story "The Reaper's Image". The story should be approximately 3-4 (although the students may go over, within reason) typed pages in length, and time may be given in class to work on their story. The students will be informed that the following grading scheme will be used:
30% Format (rising action, climax, etc.)
30% Creativity
30% Flow & Grammar
10% Breakdown

Grading Scheme Explanations:

Format - The student is asked to use proper short story format as discussed in earlier classes.
Creativity - The student is asked to demonstrate a certain level of creativity. This will be the most subjective of the marked areas. The student will be informed that characterization and use of conventions will be the focus areas of creativity.
Flow and Grammar- Organization of the story (flow) and proper sentence and paragraph structure.
Breakdown - Following the story, the student is expected to give a critique of his/her story. They should include such things as: what is the critical incident, what is the nature of the conflict, what is the climax of the story, etc., etc.


Emphasize to the students that this is a creative exercise, but that they must adhere to the format studied. Any obvious failings to do so will affect the students' mark on this project. The students' should choose one of the following plot lines for their story to follow:


  1. A group of high school students are taking a tour of the Samuel Claggert Memorial Private Museum, when one of the students notices something strange in the DeIver mirror. Suddenly, the student finds himself wishing he were back in his class.
  2. An English Duchess has just been given the DeIver mirror as a present from her fiancé. Tonight, she and her future husband are throwing a party. However, their celebration will take a turn for the worse.
  3. A Pennsylvania rug merchant has just had a successful business trip to New York. So successful, in fact, that he decided to celebrate his earning buy acquiring a new piece of art. Unfortunately for him, he chose the DeIver mirror. As he settles in for an evening of quiet relaxation he notices something strange about his new piece.
  4. Alternately, the students may approach you individually with their own ideas. Emphasize that original plot concepts must be past by you first.
























Short Story Elements Quiz Name: ________________


I. Match the following definitions with the terms from II:

    1. The angle from which the story is perceived______.
    2. Struggle between opposing forces_______.
    3. Similes and metaphors are examples of________.
    4. The atmosphere or location of the story________.
    5. Techniques the writer uses to develop the antagonist and protagonist________.


II. Give an example of each of these elements in "The Three Little Pigs"

A. Point of view:



  1. Characterization:




  3. Setting:




  5. Figurative Language:




  7. Conflict:


German art critic wrote about this bronze statue, this decorative modern art interpretation of the mythological personification of masculine beauty: "Adonis is the return of Beauty. It is what the viewer can find in the artist's sculpture. Schone's "ADONIS" is the return to the emotional quality of the male body, to the mystery of the natural body consciousness. It is the joy of watching a flawless, well- built body enjoying the present. With its surface vibrating in the light, the sculpture "ADONIS" breaks with the rigid academic conventions, which constrict all individual interpretation. With this work Thomas Schone grasps powerful, carefree youth in its narcissistic form which is adored always and everywhere."

Adonis was the prototype of beauty in the Antique World. He was adored and desired by the most beautiful goddesses and ended, by Zeus' command, in having to share his life between two of them: one half of the year he was with Aphrodite, the Goddess of Beauty and Love and the other half he had to spend with Persephone, the Goddess of the Underworld. Thomas Schone's Adonis in jeans places this mythical figure in our time and, incidentally uses for this purpose a.self-portrait. Height: 19". WORLDWIDE LIMITED PRODUCTION in three versions. A: bronze, 99 Pieces. B: cold bronze (a mixture of bronze with lighter metals), 199 Pieces. C: artificial marble, 199 Pieces:


A Reading of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"

following essay was published in the New Orleans Review in 1985 and was reprinted in the 1991 volume of Contemporary Literary Criticism (Gale Research) without my knowledge (so, before you consider reprinting this, ask me first).  The original essay announced its critical approach in the title, but I would really rather that people read it first and see if it helps clarify the story for them.

In her critical biography of Shirley Jackson, Lenemaja Friedman notes that when Shirley Jackson's story "The Lottery" was published in the June 28, 1948 issue of the New Yorker it received a response that "no New Yorker story had ever received": hundreds of letters poured in that were characterized by "bewilderment, speculation, and old-fashioned abuse."1 It is not hard to account for this response: Jackson's story portrays an "average" New England village with "average" citizens engaged in a deadly rite, the annual selection of a sacrificial victim by means of a public lottery, and does so quite deviously: not until well along in the story do we suspect that the "winner" will be stoned to death by the rest of the villagers.  One can imagine the average reader of Jackson's story protesting:  But we engage in no such inhuman practices.  Why are you accusing us of this?

Admittedly, this response was not exactly the one that Jackson had hoped for.  In the July 22, 1948 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle she broke down and said the following in response to persistent queries from her readers about her intentions: "Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult.  I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to chock the story's readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives."2   Shock them she did, but probably owning to the symbolic complexity of her tale, they responded defensively and were not enlightened.

The first part of Jackson's remark in the Chronicle, I suspect, was at once true and coy.  Jackson's husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, has written in his introduction to a posthumous anthology of her short stories that "she consistently refused to be interviewed, to explain or promote her work in any fashion, or to take public stands and be the pundit of the Sunday supplements."3   Jackson did not say in the Chronicle that it was impossible for her to explain approximately what her story was about, only that it was "difficult."  That she thought it meant something, and something subversive, moreover, she revealed in her response to the Union of South Africa's banning of "The Lottery": "She felt," Hyman says, "that they at least understood."4  A survey of what little has been written about "The Lottery" reveals two general critical attitudes: first, that it is about man's ineradicable primitive aggressivity, or what Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren call his "all-too-human tendency to seize upon a scapegoat"; second, that it describes man's victimization by, in Helen Nebeker's words, "unexamined and unchanging traditions which he could easily change if he only realized their implications."5   Missing from both of these approaches, however, is a careful analysis of the abundance of social detail that links the lottery to the ordinary social practices of the village.  No mere "irrational" tradition, the lottery is an ideological mechanism.   It serves to reinforce the village's hierarchical social order by instilling the villages with an unconscious fear that if they resist this order they might be selected in the next lottery.  In the process of creating this fear, it also reproduces the ideology necessary for the smooth functioning of that social order, despite its inherent inequities.  What is surprising in the work of an author who has never been identified as a Marxist is that this social order and ideology are essentially capitalist.

I think we need to take seriously Shirley Jackson's suggestion that the world of the lottery is her reader's world, however reduced in scale for the sake of economy.  The village in which the lottery takes place has a bank, a post office, a grocery store, a coal business, a school system; its women are housewives rather than field workers or writers; and its men talk of "tractors and taxes."6   More importantly, however, the village exhibits the same socio-economic stratification that most people take for granted in a modern, capitalist society.

Let me begin by describing the top of the social ladder and save the lower rungs for later.  The village's most powerful man, Mr. Summers, owns the village's largest business (a coal concern) and is also its major, since he has, Jackson writes, more "time and energy [read money and leisure] to devote to civic activities" than others (p. 292).  (Summers' very name suggests that he has become a man of leisure through his wealth.)  Next in line is Mr. Graves, the village's second most powerful government official--its postmaster.  (His name may suggest the gravity of officialism.)  And beneath Mr. Graves is Mr. Martin, who has the economically advantageous position of being the grocer in a village of three hundred.

These three most powerful men who control the town, economically as well as politically, also happen to administer the lottery.  Mr. Summers is its official, sworn in yearly by Mr. Graves (p. 294).  Mr. Graves helps Mr. Summers make up the lottery slips (p. 293).  And Mr. Martin steadies the lottery box as the slips are stirred (p. 292).  In the off season, the lottery box is stored either at their places of business or their residences: "It had spent on year in Mr. Graves' barn and another year underfoot in the post-office, and sometimes it was set on a shelf in the Martin grocery and left there" (p. 293).  Who controls the town, then, also controls the lottery.  it is no coincidence that the lottery takes place in the village square "between the post-office and the bank"--two buildings which represent government and finance, the institutions from which Summers, Graves, and Martin derive their power.

However important Mr. Graves and Mr. Martin may be, Mr. Summers is still the most powerful man in town.  Here we have to ask a Marxist question: what relationship is there between his interests as the town's wealthiest businessman and his officiating the lottery?  That such a relationship does exist is suggested by one of the most revealing lines of the text.  When Bill Hutchinson forces his wife Tessie to open her lottery slip to the crowd, Jackson writes, "It had a black spot on it, the black spot Mr. Summers had made the night before with [a] heavy pencil in [his] coal-company office" (p. 301).  At the very moment when the lottery's victim is revealed, Jackson appends a subordinate clause in which we see the blackness (evil) of Mr. Summers' (coal) business being transferred to the black dot on the lottery slip.  At one level at least, evil in Jackson's text is linked to a disorder, promoted by capitalism, in the material organization of modern society.  But it still remains to be explained how the evil of the lottery is tied to this disorder of capitalist social organization.

Let me sketch the five major points of my answer to this question.  First, the lottery's rules of participation reflect and codify a rigid social hierarchy based upon an inequitable social division of labor.  Second, the fact that everyone participates in the lottery and understands consciously that its outcome is pure chance give it a certain "democratic" aura that obscures its first codifying function.   Third, the villagers believe unconsciously that their commitment to a work ethic will grant them some magical immunity from selection.  Fourth, this work ethic prevents them from understanding that the lottery's actual function is not to encourage work per se but to reinforce an inequitable social division of labor.   Finally, after working through these points, it will be easier to explain how Jackson's choice of Tessie Hutchinson as the lottery's victim/scapegoat reveals the lottery to be an ideological mechanism which serves to defuse the average villager's deep, inarticulate dissatisfaction with the social order in which he lives by channeling it into anger directed at the victims of that social order.  It is reenacted year after year, then, not because it is a mere "tradition," as Helen Nebeker argues, but because it serves the repressive ideological function of purging the social body of all resistance so that business (capitalism) can go on as usual and the Summers, the Graves and the Martins can remain in power.

Implicit in the first and second points above is a distinction between universal participation in the lottery and what I have called its rules of participation.   The first of these rules I have already explained, of course: those who control the village economically and politically also administer the lottery.  The remaining rules also tell us much about who has and who doesn't have power in the village's social hierarchy.  These remaining rules determine who gets to choose slips in the lottery's first, second and third rounds.  Before the lottery, lists are "[made] up of heads of families [who choose in the first round], heads of households [who choose in the second round], [and] members of each household in each family [who choose in the last round]" (p. 294).  The second round is missing from the story because the family patriarch who selects the dot in the first round--Bill Hutchinson--has no married male offspring.  When her family is chosen in the first round, Tessie Hutchinson objects that her daughter and son-in-law didn't "take their chance."  Mr. Summers has to remind her, "Daughters draw with their husbands' families" (p. 299).   Power in the village, then, is exclusively consolidated into the hands of male heads of families and households.  Women are disenfranchised.

Although patriarchy is not a product of capitalism per se, patriarchy in the village does have its capitalist dimension.  (New social formations adapt old traditions to their own needs.)  Women in the village seem to be disenfranchised because male heads of households, as men in the work force, provide the link between the broader economy of the village and the economy of the household.  Some consideration of other single household families in the first round of the lottery--the Dunbars and the Watsons--will help make this relationship between economics and family power clearer.   Mr. Dunbar, unable to attend the lottery because he has a broken leg, has to choose by proxy.  The rules of lottery participation take this situation into account: "gown boy[s]" take precedence as proxies over wives (p. 295).  Mrs. Dunbar's son Horace, however, is only sixteen, still presumably in school and not working; hence Mrs. Dunbar chooses for Mr. Dunbar.  Jack Watson, on the other hand, whose father is dead, is clearly older than Horace and presumably already in the work force.   Admittedly, such inferences cannot be supported with hard textual evidence, but they make sense when the text is referred to the norms of the society which it addresses.7  Within these norms, "heads of households" are not simply the oldest males in their immediate families; they are the oldest working males and get their power from their insertion into a larger economy.  Women, who have no direct link to the economy  as defined by capitalism--the arena of activity in which labor is exchanged for wages and profits are made--choose in the lottery only in the absence of a "grown," working male.8

Women, then, have a distinctly subordinate position in the socio-economic hierarchy of the village.  They make their first appearance "wearing faded house dresses . . .  [and walking] shortly after their menfolk" (p. 292).  Their dresses indicate that they do in fact work, but because they work in the home and not within the larger economy in which work is regulated by money, they are treated by men and treat themselves as inferiors.  When Tessie Hutchinson appears late to the lottery, other men address her husband Bill, "here comes your Missus, Hutchinson" (p. 295).   None of the men, that is to say, thinks of addressing Tessie first, since she "belongs" to Bill.  Most women in the village take this patriarchal definition of their role for granted, as Mrs. Dunbar's and Mrs. Delacroix's references to their husbands as their "old [men]" suggests (pp. 295 & 297).  Tessie, as we shall see later, is the only one who rebels against male domination, although only unconsciously.

Having sketched some of the power relations within the families of the village, I can now shift my attention to the ways in which what I have called the democratic illusion of the lottery diverts their attention from the capitalist economic relations in which these relations of power are grounded.  On its surface, the idea of a lottery in which everyone, as Mrs. Graves says, "[takes] the same chance" seems eminently democratic, even if its effect, the singing out of one person for privilege or attack, is not.

One critic, noting an ambiguity at the story's beginning, has remarked that "the lottery . . .  suggests 'election' rather than selection," since "the [villagers] assemble in the center of the place, in the village square."9  I would like to push the analogy further. In capitalist dominated elections, business supports and promotes candidates who will be more or less attuned to its interests, multiplying its vote through campaign financing, while each individual businessman can claim that he has but one vote.  In the lottery, analogously, the village ruling class participates in order to convince others (and perhaps even themselves) that they are not in fact above everyone else during the remainder of the year, even though their exclusive control of the lottery suggests that they are.  Yet just as the lottery's black (ballot?) box has grown shabby and reveals in places its "original wood color," moments in their official "democratic" conduct of the lottery--especially Mr. Summers' conduct as their representative--reveal the class interest that lies behind it.  If Summers wears jeans, in order to convince the villagers that he is just another one of the common people, he also wears a "clean white shirt," a garment more appropriate to his class (p. 294).  If he leans casually on the black box before the lottery selection begins, as a President, say, might put his feet up on the White House desk, while leaning he talk[s] interminably to Mr. Graves and the Martins," the other members of his class, and "seem[s] very proper and important" (p. 294).  Jackson has placed these last details in emphatic position at the end of a paragraph.)  Finally, however democratic his early appeal for help in conducting the lottery might appear--"some of you fellows want to give me a hand?" (p. 292)--Mr. Martin, who responds, is the third most powerful man in the village.  Summers' question is essentially empty and formal, since the villagers seem to understand, probably unconsciously, the unspoken rule of class that governs who administers the lottery; it is not just anyone who can help Summers.

The lottery's democratic illusion, then, is an ideological effect that prevents the villagers from criticizing the class structure of their society.  But this illusion alone does not account for the full force of the lottery over the village.  The lottery also reinforces a village work ethic which distracts the villagers' attention from the division of labor that keeps women powerless in their homes and Mr. Summers powerful in his coal company office.

In the story's middle, Old Man Warner (an alarmist name if there ever was one) emerges as an apologist for this work ethic when he recalls an old village adage, "Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon" (p. 297).  At one level, the lottery seems to be a modern version of a planting ritual that might once have prepared the villagers for the collective work necessary to produce a harvest.  (Such rituals do not necessarily involve human sacrifice.)  As magical as Warner's proverb may seem, it establishes an unconscious (unspoken) connection between the lottery and work that is revealed by the entirety of his response when told that other villages are considering doing away with the lottery:

"Pack of crazy fools . . . listening to young folks, nothing's good enough for them.   Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live that way for a while.  Used to be a saying about 'Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.' First thing you know, we'd all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns.   There's always been a lottery." (p. 297)

But Warner does not explain how the lottery functions to motivate work.  In order to do so, it would have to inspire the villagers with a magical fear that their lack of productivity would make them vulnerable to selection in the next lottery.  The village women reveal such an unconscious fear in their ejaculatory questions after the last slip has been drawn in the first round: "Who is it?" "Who's got it""  "Is it the Dunbars?"  "Is it the Watsons?" (p. 298).  The Dunbars and the Watsons, it so happens, are the least "productive" families in the village: Mr. Dunbar has broken his leg, Mr. Watson is dead.  Given this unconscious village fear that lack of productivity determines the lottery's victim, we might guess that Old Man Warner's pride that he is participating in the lottery for the "seventy-seventh time" stems from a magical belief--seventy-seven is a magical number--that his commitment to work and the village work ethic accounts for his survival.  Wherever we find "magic," we are in the realm of the unconscious: the realm in which the unspoken of ideology resides.

Old Man Warner's commitment to a work ethic, however appropriate it might be in an egalitarian community trying collectively to carve an economy out of a wilderness, is not entirely innocent in the modern village, since it encourages villagers to work without pointing out to them that part of their labor goes to the support of the leisure and power of a business class.  Warner, that is to say, is Summers' ideologist.  At the end of his remarks about the lottery, Warner laments Summers' democratic conduct: "Bad enough to see young Joe Summers up there joking with everybody" (p.   297).  Yet this criticism obscures the fact that Summers is not about to undermine the lottery, even if he does "moderni8ze" it, since by running the lottery he also encourages a work ethic which serves his interest.  Just before the first round drawing, Summers remarks casually, "Well, now . . . guess we better get started, get this over with, so's we can go back to work" (p. 295).  The "we" in his remark is deceptive; what he means to say is "so that you can go back to work for me."

The final major point of my reading has to do with Jackson's selection of Tessie Hutchinson as the lottery's victim/scapegoat.  She could have chosen Mr. Dunbar, of course, in order to show us the unconscious connection that the villagers draw between the lottery and their work ethic.  But to do so would not have revealed that the lottery actually reinforces a division of labor.  Tessie, after all, is a woman whose role as a housewife deprives her of her freedom by forcing her to submit to a husband who gains his power over her by virtue of his place in the work force.   Tessie, however, rebels against her role, and such rebellion is just what the orderly functioning of her society cannot stand.  Unfortunately, her rebellion is entirely unconscious.

Tessie's rebellion begins with her late arrival at the lottery, a faux pas that raises suspicions of her resistance to everything that the lottery stands for.   She explains to Mr. Summers that she was doing her dishes and forgot what day it was.  The way in which she says this, however, involves her in another faux pas: the suggestion that she might have violated the village's work ethic and neglected her specific job within the village's social division of labor: "Wouldn't have me leave m'dishes in the sink, now, would you Joe?" (p. 295).  The "soft laughter [that runs] through the crowd" after this remark is a nervous laughter that indicates, even more than the village women's singling out of the Dunbars and the Watsons, the extent of the village's commitment to its work ethic and power structure (p. 295).   When Mr. Summers calls her family's name, Tessie goads her husband, "Get up there Bill" (p. 297).  In doing so, she inverts the power relation that holds in the village between husbands and wives.  Again, her remark evokes nervous laughter from the crowd, which sense the taboo that she has violated.  Her final faux pas is to question the rules of the lottery which relegate women to inferior status as the property of their husbands.  when Mr. Summers asks Bill Hutchinson whether his family has any other households, Tessie yells, "There's Don and Eva . . . . Make them take their chance" (p. 299).  Tessie's daughter Eva, however, belongs to Don and is consequently barred from participating with her parents' family.

All of these faux pas set Tessie up as the lottery's likeliest victim, even if they do not explicitly challenge the lottery.  That Tessie's rebellion is entirely unconscious is revealed by her cry while being stoned, "It isn't fair" (p. 302).   Tessie does not object to the lottery per se, only to her own selection as its scapegoat.  It would have been fine with her if someone else had been selected.

In stoning Tessie, the villagers treat her as a scapegoat onto which they can project and through with they can "purge"--actually, the term repress is better, since the impulse is conserved rather than eliminated--their own temptations to rebel.  The only places we can see these rebellious impulses are in Tessie, in Mr. and Mrs. Adams' suggestion, squelched by Warner, that the lottery might be given up, and in the laughter of the crowd.  (The crowd's nervous laughter is ambivalent: it expresses uncertainty about the validity of the taboos that Tessie breaks.)  But ultimately these rebellious impulses are channeled by the lottery and its attendant ideology away from their proper objects--capitalism and capitalist patriarchs--into anger at the rebellious victims of capitalist social organization.  Like Tessie, the villagers cannot articulate their rebellion because the massive force of ideology stands in the way.

The lottery functions, then, to terrorize the village into accepting, in the name of work and democracy, the inequitable social division of labor and power on which its social order depends.  When Tessie is selected, and before she is stoned, Mr. Summers asks her husband to "show [people] her paper" (p. 301).  By holding up the slip, Bill Hutchinson reasserts his dominance over his wayward wife and simultaneous transforms her into a symbol to others of the perils of disobedience.

Here I would like to point out a curious crux in Jackson's treatment of the theme of scapegoating in "The Lottery": the conflict between the lottery's arbitrariness and the utter appropriateness of its victim.  Admittedly, Tessie is a curious kind of scapegoat, since the village does not literally choose her, single her out.  An act of scapegoating that is unmotivated is difficult to conceive.  The crux disappears, however, once we realize that the lottery is a metaphor for the unconscious ideological mechanisms of scapegoating.  In choosing Tessie through the lottery, Jackson has attempted to show us whom the village might have chosen if the lottery had been in fact an election.  But by presenting this election as an arbitrary lottery, she gives us an image of the village's blindness to its own motives.

Possibly the most depressing thing about "The Lottery" is how early Jackson represents this blindness as beginning.  Even the village children have been socialized into the ideology that victimizes Tessie.  When they are introduced in the second paragraph of the story, they are anxious that summer has let them out of school: "The feeling of liberty sat uneasily on most of them" (p. 291).  Like their parents, they have learned that leisure and play are suspect.  As if to quell this anxiety, the village boys engage in the play/labor of collecting stones for the lottery.   Moreover, they follow the lead of Bobby Martin, the one boy in the story whose father is a member of the village ruling class (Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves have no boys), in hoarding and fighting over these stones as if they were money.  While the boys do this, the village girls stand off to the side and watch, just as they will be expected to remain outside of the work force and dependent on their working husbands when they grow up.

As dismal as this picture seems, the one thing we ought not do is make it into proof of the innate depravity of man.  The first line of the second paragraph--"The children assembled first, of course" (p. 291)--does not imply that children take a "natural" and primitive joy in stoning people to death.10   The closer we look at their behavior, the more we realize that they learned it from their parents, whom they imitate in their play.  In order to facilitate her reader's grasp of this point, Jackson has included at least one genuinely innocent child in the story--Davy Hutchinson.  When he has to choose his lottery ticket, the adults help him while he looks at them "wonderingly" (p. 300).  And when Tessie is finally to be stoned, "someone" has to "[give] Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles" (p. 301) to stone his mother.  The village makes sure that Davy learns what he is supposed to do before he understands why he does it or the consequences.   But this does not mean that he could not learn otherwise.

Even the village adults are not entirely hopeless.  Before Old Man Warner cuts them off, Mr. and Mrs. Adams, whose last name suggests a humanity that has not been entirely effaced, briefly mention other villages that are either talking of giving up the lottery or have already done so.  Probably out of deep-seated fear, they do not suggest that their village give it up; but that they hint at the possibility, however furtively, indicates a reservation--a vague sense of guilt--about what they are about to do.  The Adams's represent the village's best, humane impulses, impulses, however, which the lottery represses.

How do we take such a pessimistic vision of the possibility of social transformation?   If anything can be said against "The Lottery," it is probably that it exaggerates the monolithic character of capitalist ideological hegemony.  No doubt, capitalism has subtle ways of redirecting the frustrations it engenders away from a critique of capitalism itself.  Yet if in order to promote itself it has to make promises of freedom, prosperity and fulfillment on which it cannot deliver, pockets of resistance grow up among the disillusioned.  Perhaps it is not Jackson's intention to deny this, but to shock her complacent reader with an exaggerated image of the ideological modus operandi of capitalism: accusing those whom it cannot or will not employ of being lazy, promoting "the family" as the essential social unit in order to discourage broader associations and identifications, offering men power over their wives as a consolation for their powerlessness in the labor market, and pitting workers against each other and against the unemployed.  It is our fault as readers if our own complacent pessimism makes us read Jackson's story pessimistically as a parable of man's innate The depravity.